RCMP wrong to raid, judge rules

Last Thursday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Lynn Ratushny ruled in favour of Juliet O’Neill—an Ottawa Citizen journalist whose house was raided by the RCMP two years ago for information she had related to the Maher Arar case.

It was suspected that someone from within the RCMP had leaked information to O’Neill, who refused to name her sources. The police then used the Security and Information Act to justify raiding her house.
On Friday, The Globe and Mail reported that Judge Ratushny said in her concluding statements: “so-called anti-leakage provisions in the Security and Information Act are unacceptably broad, vague and wide open to abuse by authorities who would seek to chill diligent journalism.” Ratushny’s judgement acknowledges the unequivocal necessity of the freedom of the press in a healthy democracy, and also calls into question all of the security laws that were rushed through the House of Commons after Sept. 1, 2001.

The current act states that anyone providing, receiving or hearing confidential information may face a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Government is in the process of revising the law. This case serves as a reminder that it isn’t just the application of laws in need of constant reviewing, but also the content of laws.

Although O’Neill was originally threatened with criminal charges, those charges were dropped and she will receive all of her documents back. O’Neill was simply doing her job by investigating the Arar case o the best of her abilities and gathering as much information as possible. The RCMP was undoubtedly in the wrong and it’s too bad that it took so long for the justice system to recognize this.

Hopefully the landmark ruling on press freedom and freedom of expression will prevent abuses of power like this in the future.

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